Total Acres: 812.2 –
Hazelwood, MO 63042
Above Photo by MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.
Charbonier Bluff is a High Potential Historic Site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
On May 16, 1804, the expedition passed Charbonier Bluff, the highest point on the lower Missouri River. Historically distinguished by an exposed coal seam at the base, French explorers in the early 18th century named it “La Charbonniere” (the charcoal). Clark noted, “passed the Coal hill (Call by the natives Carbonear) this hill appears to Contain great quantytes of Coal, and also ore of a rich appearance haveing greatly the resemblance of Silver.” He also wrote that “from this hill the village of St. Charles may be Seen at 7 miles distance.”
Dating to prehistoric times, Native Americans established permanent camps at Charbonier Bluff. A high cliff of sandstone and loess soil, it remained a landmark for river traffic along the lower Missouri into the 19th century. The exposed coal seam provided a source of fuel for river traffic and settlers up until sometime during the 1850s, when changes in the Missouri River course covered it over. From 1886 to 1972, the bluff property was a component of the St. Stanislaus Seminary. The ruins of a Jesuit chapel built over an American Indian burial mound along the ridgetop remain extant. In 1973, the St. Louis County Department of Parks acquired a 795-acre tract that included Charbonier Bluff. The site is managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Saint Stanislaus Conservation Area is in north St. Louis County. The Conservation Department leases this 812-acre area from the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation and manages it for a variety of wildlife species.
The area was named for the former Saint Stanislaus Seminary which used this site for a retreat. Old building foundations from this retreat still remain.
Early French explorers named this historic bluff “La Charbonier,” which means coal seam. The journals of Lewis and Clark also noted the coal resources of the bluff.
Access to Charbonier Bluff, which overlooks the Missouri River bottoms, is provided by hiking trails from the lower parking area.
The area includes a portion of Bryan Island on the Missouri River. The island is on the western boundary of the property and is accessible only by boat.
Habitats found on the area include wetlands, upland and bottomland forest, and open fields.
Be aware when hiking the lower portions of the area, that it is frequently subject to spring flooding. This was clearly evident from the layer of black mud that had washed down from the bluff and flooded the lower trails making the walk a gooey, slick experience. The Grand-Girls were having fits about their tennis shoes getting muddy, but trudged along like little, grumpy soldiers. I can’t say this was one of the best hikes we’ve been on, but it is a fairly easy trail when its dry. We were here last summer and explored a few of the trail offshoots and ruins. Climbing up the steep bluff, you can follow some faintly worn trails and there are some dilapidated ruins left from the old Seminary though mostly overgrown by the forest.